The Jeep Grand Cherokee has very good road manners, five-passenger capacity, more cargo room than its predecessor and, if properly optioned, can be taken off the highway.
Grand Cherokee was thoroughly redesigned for 2011. For 2012, Jeep has made a few notable changes, brought back the SRT8 high-performance model, and added an Overland Summit to the top of the luxury range.
2012 Grand Cherokee models also get changes in packaging and pricing. While the least-expensive version appears about $3,000 less than last year's base model, it isn't really because it doesn't include power seats and other features that were standard for 2011. Every 2012 Grand Cherokee above the base model has seen a price increase.
Jeep Grand Cherokee continues to evolve toward luxury wagon and away from the utility vehicles that made the name famous. Many Grand Cherokee models come with piped leather, and the list of features includes a heated, power tilt-telescope steering column, ventilated front seats, and collision warning system.
Two-wheel drive is standard across the board. Four-wheel drive, low-range gearing, and a full-size spare tire required for genuine off-road activities are optional. And while you can get tow hooks, they're optional on most and chrome plated on the top of the line. A variety of all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive systems and suspension arrangements are available. A 3.6-liter V6 engine is standard and more than sufficient for anything but heavy towing. For that, they offer a 5.7-liter V8. A 5-speed automatic goes with the V6, and mileage has improved slightly for 2012.
The Grand Cherokee interior is stylish and made with high-quality materials. The luxurious Overland Summit model is as stitched-and-piped as any Chrysler and similarly expensive. The 60/40 rear seats recline for comfort, enabling passengers to look up at the sky through the optional panoramic sunroof that extends over both rows of seats; and the front seat folds flat for kayaks or two-by-fours.
The styling of the Grand Cherokee is uptown, with a sloped windshield and backlight, sculpted sides, and clean lines everywhere. The development of the Grand Cherokee goes back far enough that it paralleled the Mercedes-Benz M-Class. If there's a safety feature you want that isn't standard you can probably get it as an option.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee competes against a spectrum of vehicles including four-wheel drives, including the Land Rover LR4, Mercedes-Benz G-Class, Toyota 4Runner and Land Cruiser, any number of mid-size crossovers and niche models, and with the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition.
The 2012 Grand Cherokee SRT8 is a street bruiser performance wagon like the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5 and X6 and Mercedes-Benz AMG utilities. It's the fastest, most expensive, thirstiest Grand Cherokee, and the last one you want to take to a trail.